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How to treat shingles

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Shingles is also known as harpes zoster. This is a serious skin rash which happens due to attack of the varicella zoster virus. The same virus is also responsible for causing chickenpox. When someone suffers from chickenpox as a result of any attack by the virus, the virus stays in the body. The virus at times reappears and it causes nasty blisters known as shingles.

varicella zoster virus.

varicella zoster virus.

There are different ways to treat shingles.

Diagnose shingles

It is important to know the symptoms commonly associated with this problem to diagnose whether you are suffering from it or not. The most common symptoms of shingles include

·         Headache

·         Flu-like symptoms

·         Sensitivity to light

·         Itching, tingling, irritation and pain. They happen when a rash starts developing. Such sensations happen only on one side of the body.

There are three stages associated with shingles. If you know the symptoms for each of these stages, it will be easier to diagnose them and offer treatment as and when necessary.

Stage 1-before the rash
The symptoms at this stage include itchiness, numbness, tingling, and pain in specific parts of your body. These are the areas where the rash will eventually develop. Diarrhea, chills and stomach ache are often seen in the patients during this stage. Swelling or tendering of the lymph nodes is also seen.

Stage 2-rash and blisters
On one side of the body, rash will develop. Blisters will form eventually. At the initial stage, the liquid in the blisters is clear but it will turn cloudy later. Such a rash and blisters may also cause stinging pain in the patients. If somehow a rash develops around your eyes, you should immediately consult a doctor.

Stage 3- after the rash and blisters
You may experience pain where the rash developed. It is known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). The condition may last for weeks or years. You’ll experience extreme sensitivity, chronic pain, aches and burning sensation during this time.

You may be at a higher risk of having shingles if you are using immunosuppressive drugs like steroids which are generally prescribed after an organ transplant. If you are suffering from any of the following conditions, you have a higher risk of having shingles-

·         Cancer

·         Lymphoma

·         Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

·         Leukemia

Treatment of shingles

Talk to your doctor early
If you go to your doctor sooner, your diagnosis will be sooner and better. If you can start your treatment within three days of the symptoms appearing, you will have better results compared to people who wait for longer before starting the treatment for shingles.

Treating the rash while managing pain
The initial treatment of shingles may include treatment of the symptoms of the rash when the doctor is trying to manage the pain of the patient. Your doctor may prescribe the following medicines-

One anti-viral medicine. It may include acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex), famciclovir (Famvir) etc. the anti-viral medicine will dull the pain caused by the rash while reducing its attack.

Over-the-counter NSAIDS which may include  ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen. These are prescribed to manage the pain.

Some topical antibiotics for prevention of the infection. It will also help to stop spreading of the rash or blisters.

If you experience chronic pain after the rash
If you experience chronic pain after the rash, your doctor may prescribe you some other medicines such as antidepressant for depression, topical anesthetics for reducing the pain, anticonvulsants for eliminating pain, opoids to reduce chronic pain etc.

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